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HISTORY   AND    HUMAN    RELATIONS

undermines the simple moral judgment which originally
we might have been tempted to make.

When Lord Acton issued his justifiable protests against
the slackness of the current ideas on the subject of moral
judgments, the critical point in his argument had refer-
ence to the difficulty that arises from the inevitable in-
completeness of the historian's knowledge. Rightly
indignant against the casual handling of such important
questions, he was wrongly severe, however, in the
remedy which he proposed to administer. He approved
the principle that we should beware of too much ex-
plaining lest we end by excusing the men of the -past.
Lack of knowledge in his opinion did not justify a
suspension of judgment; he thought that the cause of
morality would be better served if the historian erred
rather by excessive severity. In the famous controversy
with ^Creighton on die subject of the History of the
Papacy it is apparent that the heart of the difficulty lay
at the same point in the argument. Creighton was
surely right when he said—after second thoughts on die
subject—that he, for his part, could not bring himself to
. be the judge of Pope Alexander VI and must make
allowances for time and circumstance. Acton, on the
other hand, must have been right in believing that the
historian does not know enough to exonerate such a
man, and that, whatever might be discounted for the
age of the Renaissance, the ethics of the New Testament
had at any rate been in circulation for nearly fifteen
hundred years. It is not to be presumed that eidiet
of these historians hesitated to agree that certain actions
were wrong—that lying and poisoning were immoral.

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